Monday, February 22, 2010

28 Reasons I Love Hamilton... Reason 22

Why write 28 reasons I love Hamilton?

1. Hamilton is a CITY.
2. Location
3. Size (population)
4. Scale
5. Creativity and the arts
6. Buildings
7. Nature

8. Film industry
9. Markets and restaurants
10. Trails, paths, and running routes
11. Gore Park
12. Climate
13. Safety
14. Landscapes and views
15. The ability to live modestly
16. Sports teams
17. Schools
18. Entertainment options
19. The churches and (other faith groups)
20. Festivals and events
21. History

22. Waterfront

Last year, I was heading to Toronto in the morning... as the train curves along the track, you see two things. First, the sunrise over the sailboats in the harbour and the lakefront stretching away in the distance. I saw that every day.

And from time to time, I'd see herons wading in some of the smaller, marshy areas right below the track. It always made me happy to see either of those things. I'd be sitting on the train with a stupid grin on my face - because I love, love, love it. Where else do you see herons wading as you go to work in the morning?

(It's rather unfortunate that's not what you see from the QEW driving along the other side of the city.)

The size and history of our waterfront is staggering. Our entire city is built along a lakeshore. We have swaths of land, incredible microclimates and ecosystems. Parts that used to be much worse have been remediated from what they used to be.

Not a lot of other cities can claim this much lakeshore. And the waterfront has been transformed from what it used to be along the Bayfront into a vibrant community with several destinations, a far cry from the rough area it used to be. Other areas of the lakeshore, from new townhomes along the QEW to parks are also beautiful.

We're lucky enough not to have built a highway directly at the waterfront's edge like the QEW in Toronto - because Toronto won't have an earthquake like San Francisco did that allows them to reclaim their waterfront.

And while a lot of our industry has died a long and slow death, some viable industry - and some new industry - still needs part of the waterfront too. Some new companies have opened up in recent years and provided valuable tax dollars. Other brownfield sites are most easily cleaned up and well situated for industrial use.

We can keep both aspects of that... if we have the right buffer zones between what remains industrial and what's remediated, and if properties are redone one step at a time.. we can retain some of our port identity and some of that income/tax base, as well as the areas where nature, trails, residential and tourism flourish.

But the waterfront as a bastion of heavy industry that employs tens of thousands will never happen again, and one of the defining features of great cities is how they use their waterfront - so I hope we can be smarter about it in the future. I hope we can enforce pollution standards on the industry that is there. Particulate falling on lakefront houses isn't acceptable. Sure, let industry use the space it needs, (and compact it into the space that isn't being used), at least for the next few decades, but intentionally allow remediation to creep over.

Whatever happens, the waterfront's size and existence are something you can't find in a lot of other cities - and where else are you going to see herons in the morning?!?!

Hamilton has a huge, expansive waterfront. And that's another reason I love Hamilton.

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